A Little Help For Her Friends

Campus is empty.

By and large, the campus was cleared out by Friday afternoon, May 10 at 5:00.

Graduate day, always a great day on a college campus.  Another group of young men and women leaving after four or sometimes five years to head into the next phase in their lives.

I’ve not written for a while.  That’s obvious every time I log on to the Dordt website and I see March 1 as my last entry.

Why has it been so difficult to find the time to put my thoughts down?

I don’t know if it’s finding the time that’s been difficult.  Narrowing the scope of what I want to write has been.

Much has happened in the last two months plus.  National Champs crowned during indoor track.  Basketball teams seasons end.  Baseball and softball fought through horrible weather conditions to get their seasons in and the track teams had rare nice days to get qualified for the national meet.

Let me tell you a story about one of those events that qualified.

The 4 x 400 meter relay team in women’s track has been on the cusp of qualifying for the national meet.

On paper it certainly looked like a qualification was almost a certain thing.  There are no such things in athletics.

A windy and cold day here.  A mishandled handoff there. A pulled muscle. Training issues.  Not getting everyone to click at the same time.

One of the comments I have made over the course of the last several years is that every season is fragile.  An isolated moment can determine the course of a season and you oftentimes don’t know that that moment has come and gone until you look back in reflection of a season past.

Back to the 4 x 400.

After missing the automatic qualifying standard at the GPAC Championships in early May  there was one last chance to get qualified and it fell on graduation day, May 10.

Some had plans for the summer that couldn’t wait.  Exam week was taking its toll as it always does.

At the end of it all there was a leg in the relay open.  There were runners who wanted to run, but you’ve got to have four for a relay.  Two or three, that doesn’t cut it.

Enter Briana Vander Woude.

The national champ in the multi-event this past indoor season.   Qualifier in several events for the outdoor season.

She didn’t need to run anymore.  In fact, some would say she had done enough, she didn’t have to run a race she had never, to my recollection, run in college.

But she did.

And a relay team is now headed to the national meet in large part because an athlete decided that helping her teammates achieve a goal was more important than a graduation celebration or any individual honors could be.

When the moment was available, she helped a group of athletes seize the chance.

Now, I’d imagine she’d be the first to say she just carried the baton and the other runners did most of the work and deflect much of the praise.

That’s the way she is.

This past spring I took pictures of the track and field athletes and asked that they tell me their names as we ran them through.  I know most, there are some who I don’t know.  Some assume I know them.

Not Briana.

As I’m finished with her picture she comes up and humbly says, “I’m Briana Vander Woude.”

I reply, “Yup, I knew who you are.”

Hopefully you know now too.

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